Last year I was delighted to be given the opportunity to design and teach my own undergraduate course in Oral History at UCC, the first time such a course has ever been offered. The course is centred around individual research projects, so each student gets to choose his or her topic and the readings and in-class discussions provide methodological and interpretive guidance. The first group of students – all of whom were in second- or third-year and pursuing major or single honours degrees in history – also agreed to participate in an experiment with me: putting their interviews online. I set up a website using the open-source content management system Omeka and the educational service Reclaim Hosting and in the last two weeks of the term we turned the class into a workshop (aka crash course) in digital archives. The result is Oral History @UCC.
Some favourite moments from the students’ interviews:
- Growing up in inner city Dublin, Maura Kenny remembers that one evening a week her mother would go out and ‘my father’d look after us and we used to have kind of a party every Friday night when she was gone!’
- Jackie ‘The Farmer’ O’Sullivan was born in 1912 in rural Co. Kerry and tells Deirdre Kerins about how life was different in his youth: ‘when I left school I was sent out to a farmer working when I was sixteen years: milking cows, digging potatoes, cutting turf…’
- Retired Garda sergeant Donal O’Donovan starts off this interview sounding exactly like you’d expect a garda sergeant to sound.
- Joan O’Regan from Co. Limerick remembers the day of her first Holy Communion particularly because, as she says, ‘I think it was the first time I ever tasted a chocolate biscuit’.
- Grace O’Callaghan of Cork City talks to her nephew Matthew about her work in O’Donovan’s butchers and recalls the shop’s importance to the local population: ‘You’d often hear them say “If I went anywhere else but Donovan’s my mother would kill me!”‘
Interviews by this year’s group of students should be on the site by early December.